A neuroma is an often painful enlargement of one of your body?s nerves. Morton?s neuroma is the name used to describe nerve enlargement in your foot, particularly enlargement of one of the nerves traveling to your toes in your forefoot. Morton?s neuromas most commonly develop in one of your intermetatarsal nerves, one of many nerve branches within your foot that originated in your spine. Morton?s neuroma is more likely to affect women than men.
A Morton?s Neuroma are a result of complex biomechanical changes that occur in your feet. There are a number of theories as to the exact cause of the scarring and thickening, but it basically boils down to overload of the tissue structure. The body lays down scar tissue to try to protect the overloaded structure. Tight-fitting shoes may exacerbate a Morton?s Neuroma. Shoes such as high heels and shoes with tight toe boxes (eg womens fashion shoes and cowboy boots) are particularly damaging to the toes. These shoes have a sloping foot bed and a narrow toe box. The slope causes the front of the foot to bear your weight. The angle of the toe box then squeezes your toes together. Footwear is not the only cause of a Morton?s Neuroma. Injuries to the foot can also be a factor in developing the condition by changing your foot biomechanics. Poor foot arch control leading to flat feet or foot overpronation does make you biomechanically susceptible to a neuroma.
Episodes of pain are intermittent. Patients may experience 2 attacks in a week and then none for a year. Recurrences are variable and tend to become more frequent. Between attacks, no symptoms or physical signs occur. Two neuromas coexist on the same foot about 2-3% of the time. Other diagnoses should be considered when 2 or more areas of tenderness are present.
Plain x-rays of the foot may demonstrate that one or more of the metatarsals are long (Figure #5). Not uncommonly, the second and/or third metatarsal may be long relative to the third or fourth. This can create a situation where excessive load is occurring in and around the vicinity of the interdigital nerve.
Non Surgical Treatment
Initial therapies are nonsurgical and can involve one or more of the following treatments Changes in footwear. Avoid high heels or tight shoes, and wear wider shoes with lower heels and a soft sole. This enables the bones to spread out and may reduce pressure on the nerve, giving it time to heal. Custom shoe inserts and pads also help relieve irritation by lifting and separating the bones, reducing the pressure on the nerve. One or more injections of a corticosteroid medication can reduce the swelling and inflammation of the nerve, bringing some relief. Massaging the affected area can provide some momentary relief. Several studies have shown that a combination of roomier, more comfortable shoes, nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory medication, custom foot orthoses and cortisone injections provide relief in over 80 percent of people with Morton?s Neuroma. If conservative treatment does not relieve your symptoms, your physician may discuss surgical treatment options with you.
If symptoms do not respond to any of the above measures then surgery may be suggested. This involves a short 30 minute operation to either remove tissue to take pressure off the nerve or to remove the nerve causing the pain. The surgery can be done as a day case but it will be two or three weeks before you can be fully active on your feet. There may be some lingering numbness afterwards if the nerve is removed. But surgery is successful in around 80% of cases. There is a small risk of complications such as infection and thickening of the skin on the soles of the feet.